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An interview with Oliver Sessink - Bluefish Developer

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 PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2005 5:52 pm   
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An interview with Oliver Sessink - Bluefish Developer

I have used Bluefish myself quite a bit, and a year ago I intended to do a small interview with Oliver Sessink, but he was busy, I was busy, and I'm just now getting back to it. Oliver just released the 1.0 version of Bluefish and I was reminded by that to email him and ask him a few questions, and here they are.

Crouse Could you tell us a little about yourself? I mean something you wouldn't mind a few million people viewing of course!

Oliver I currently live in Wageningen, the Netherlands, where I work at Wageningen University. I work part time as a consultant for the Wageningen Multimedia Research Center, and part time I do my PhD. My PhD is about the possibilities that web-technology has for Process Engineering education at the university. That involves online simulations, animations, student tracking, adaptive systems etc. I plan to finish my PhD this year, and I have not decided yet what I will do next. In my spare time I like to do some programming (duh!), playing (bass)guitar, writing music, photographing, and traveling abroad.

Crouse The bluefish website ( doesn't have much as far as the history of bluefish and how it came to be. Could you tell us a little about the history of bluefish ?

Oliver May I quote from the manual? Here we go:

Bluefish development started under a different name. A good and free
text editor targeted towards web development was not available. Olivier
Sessink started the project ProSite. Chris Mazuc also started an HTML
editor. On a GTK development mailing list, Olivier Sessink and Chris
Mazuc saw each others postings, and decided to team up. Olivier had a
basic editor, Chris had many HTML dialogs ready. After merging the code
this was for a while known as the Thtml editor.

After a while Neil Millar joined the project to add weblint integration
and a color dialog. Because the project became larger and more mature, a
logo was wanted. After many discussions about boring logos, Neil Millar
came up with a cute blue fish. Because this logo was appreciated by all,
the name changed into the final name Bluefish.

After this initial stage, many developers, translators, testers and
users joined the project.

Several years have passed since the first Bluefish release. Since that
time, the fish has gained a reputation as an excellent editor, with
qualities like stability, usability and numerous features. Also,
Bluefish is small, fast and efficient, making it usable even on slow

Crouse On your old website you had your address posted for people that used bluefish to send you postcards, do you keep all of those ? About how many postcards do you think you've received ?

Oliver It is still there, after you run ./configure there is still a message you can send me a postcard if you like the program. The answer: yes I keep all of them, and I must have hundreds of cards from all over the world. The only continent that is missing is Antarctica ;-)

Crouse Congratulations on reaching the 1.0 stage, how does that feel ?

Oliver For us developers, for ourselves, it is not so much of a deal, because this release isn't a bigger improvement then previous releases, perhaps even smaller because we much more focused on stability (so we left out any new features that could possibly introduce instability). But it's
mainly a psychological thing: 1.0 sounds much better then 0.14, right?

For end-users this is also much more of a message like "this is really a production program, this is not some just-started-never-finished-project

Crouse What has been the most rewarding part of developing bluefish ?

Oliver Two Japanese people came to visit me several weeks ago, just to thank me for Bluefish. They spent a full day of their stay in the Netherlands to come and visit me. I was really honored they did that.

Crouse What do you use Bluefish for the most? (c++ coding, html, perl,etc??)

Oliver At work most I do with Bluefish is PHP (Netbeans for java programming, their editor s****, but the rest of the IDE has some java specific advantages I use a lot), at home it is mostly C and Python.

Crouse How much time do you spend in a month on the Bluefish project ?

Oliver That can differ a lot. Somewhere between 30 hours and 120 hours? On some days I only read and answer emails, but sometimes I spend 16 hours in a weekend programming some new feature.

Crouse Are you currently in need of any help with this project?

Oliver Yes we always are ;-)

There are some features that would really make Bluefish a lot better. There is some preliminary work, but help is always needed. For example auto-completion (for html tags as well as variables in php or perl or python), a plugin interface, python and/or perl scripting interface, code folding, validate the DTD in html, subversion and CVS integration, etc. etc.

Crouse Are there any "tips or tricks" when using bluefish ,that most people don't know about, that you would like to share ?

Oliver Since the new 1.0 release we have a new manual, and it has *many* tips and tricks that most people don't know about. For example tricks with regular expressions, how to define your own highlighting patterns, etc.

Crouse Would you care to tell us about other projects your working on, or maintaining ?

Oliver The two most active other projects are Directoryassistent and Jailkit.

Directoryassistent is a very simple and beginners-friendly GUI to keep addresses in an LDAP database.

Jailkit is a set of utilities to apply a chroot() jail much easier. Many utilities to set up the jail, highly secure utilities to run the jail, utilities to check if everything is OK, and last but not least it is well documented.


My thanks to Oliver for taking the time to reply to my email, I appreciate your time and your work on Bluefish very much.

If anyone living in Antarctica reads this, send Oliver a postcard ;)

About Bluefish

Bluefish is a powerful editor for experienced web designers and programmers. Bluefish supports many programming and markup languages, but it focuses on editing dynamic and interactive websites. Bluefish is an open source development project, released under the GPL licence.

Bluefish runs on most (all?) POSIX compatible operating systems including Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS-X, OpenBSD, Solaris and Tru64.

Changes in Bluefish 1.0

A new, very extended manual, better gnome and kde integration, much improved bookmarks, many performance improvements, many new and improved highlighting patterns (if you are upgrading: reset them to the new defaults in the preferences panel), better encoding detection, and many minor bugfixes.


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